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How big is India’s Asian Games medal win in badminton team event

In the final of the men’s team badminton event at the 2023 Asian Games, India came tantalizingly close to securing a historic gold against China, initially surging to a commanding 2-0 lead after the first two matches. Lakshya Sen displayed a lion-hearted effort, and Chirag Shetty-Satwiksairaj Rankireddy reaffirmed their status as the fastest-rising men’s doubles pair in world badminton. However, despite their collective efforts, the absence of HS Prannoy took its toll, leading to heartbreak for India in the final three matches, eventually losing the gold medal team event 2-3.

Hangzhou: Silver medallist Indian players pose for photos during the presentation ceremony of the Men's Team badminton event at the 19th Asian Games, in Hangzhou, China, Sunday, Oct. 1, 2023. (PTI Photo/Gurinder Osan)(PTI)
Hangzhou: Silver medallist Indian players pose for photos during the presentation ceremony of the Men’s Team badminton event at the 19th Asian Games, in Hangzhou, China, Sunday, Oct. 1, 2023. (PTI Photo/Gurinder Osan)(PTI)

Let’s put the silver medal podium finish for India into perspective; it’s their first medal in a badminton team event at the Asian Games since securing a bronze in 1986 – a remarkable 37-year gap. The significance of this achievement reflects India’s rapid strides, with a new generation of badminton superstars making a mark. While a gold medal would have been the perfect culmination, the silver medal represents a substantial improvement.

A closer look at India’s recent performances reveals a rising dominance in badminton, and this Asian Games silver underscores the growing authority of Indian players. In just over a year, India claimed the Thomas Cup championship in 2022 and won silver at the Birmingham Commonwealth Games in the same year, added by yesterday’s historic silver – the first ever by a men’s team at the Asian Games.

Over the past few years, the landscape of women’s individual events in badminton has transitioned from Saina Nehwal to PV Sindhu. While Nehwal was the trailblazer who ignited a revolution in women’s badminton, it is Sindhu who has magnificently continued and expanded upon her legacy. At only 28, Sindhu has surpassed Nehwal’s achievements, securing two Olympic medals — a silver in the 2016 Rio Olympics and a bronze in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. Remarkably, Sindhu stands as the lone female athlete from India to possess two Olympic medals, even though this year has been a letdown going by her standards.

Similarly, Lakshya, Prannoy, and the dynamic duo of Chirag-Satwik have stepped into the spotlight, eclipsing Kidambi Srikanth and establishing themselves as prominent figures in Indian badminton. This fearless generation of Indian shuttlers hold the promise of delivering numerous memorable victories in the future, inheriting the legacy from the legendary figures of the past: Prakash Padukone, Syed Modi, and Pullela Gopichand, who had previously brought immense glory to the nation with their remarkable accomplishments.

In the inaugural match of the gold medal team event on Sunday, Lakshya displayed a flawless combination of aggression, tenacity, composure, and exceptional skill against China’s Yuqi Shi. After narrowly winning the first game, he faced moments of nervousness in the second, allowing his opponent to level the score at 1-1. However, in the pivotal third game, Lakshya executed a remarkable comeback, even while trailing by five points at one stage, ultimately securing a 2-1 victory in the match. Thus India got a 1-0 lead against the most accomplished badminton nation in Asia, which has amassed over 100 badminton medals in Asian Games.

Following Lakshya’s triumph, Chirag-Satwik asserted their dominance from the outset against the Chinese pair of Chang Wang and Weikeng Liang, securing a convincing 21-15, 21-18 win. The responsibility then shifted to Srikanth to clinch victory in the third match and potentially secure the gold. With hopes pinned on him to establish an unassailable 3-0 lead, Srikanth battled valiantly but narrowly lost the first game 22-24. In the second game, he yielded to a confident and resolute Shifeng, who wrapped up the match with score of 24-22, 21-9. This brought back China into contention wiht India still leading 2-1 overall in the gold medal team event. Subsequently, Dhruv Kapila-Sai Krishna were conquered to level the equation to 2-2. In the fifth and last match, China’s Hongyang Weng defeated Mithun Manjunath, who had stepped in for the injured HS Prannoy, securing the gold medal for China.

While a big chunk of the defeat can be attributed to Prannoy’s absence, as his inclusion instead of Manjunath might have led to a golden moment for the team, it also underscores the need to strengthen India’s bench depth. India undeniably boast a roster of world-class badminton superstars, but to ensure our resilience in the face of injuries and unforeseen challenges, it’s imperative to cultivate a cadre of similarly exceptional backup players. Furthermore, the ongoing revolution in badminton would gain even greater significance with remarkable performances in women’s doubles, where India have historically faced challenges in world events.

Nevertheless, considering the surreal achievements of recent times, it’s not an overstatement to label India as an emerging badminton powerhouse on the global stage. While there’s ample room for improvement, one thing remains certain: India has firmly established itself in the sport, demonstrating a serious commitment and long-term presence. It’s high time for the cricket-loving Indian fans to shine the spotlight on the nation’s badminton stars and make them the center of their admiration.

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